IT is Maternal Mental Health week this week, the annual week-long campaign dedicated to talking about mental health while pregnant or after having a baby.

This year’s campaign particularly resonates with my colleagues and I, here at the NSPCC. As many as one in five mums and one in 10 fathers experience mental health concerns during pregnancy and after birth. But given the added impact the pandemic has had, those figures could be just part of a far bigger picture in the last 12 months. I really feel for new mums and dads who have welcomed baby at this extraordinary time, when the usual support networks; family ties or health professionals, just haven’t been there in the same way as they might have done.

In some areas, new parents are able to access the support they need while in others they can’t. This could be due to a number of factors, perhaps a lack of services, funding, training or staff. But between July and September 2020 1,075 women in West Yorkshire alone accessed specialist community perinatal mental services. Sadly, this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg as many more women are suffering but don’t reach the threshold for specialist support, or feel unable to seek help due to stigma. To ensure new parents receive the help they need, the NSPCC has been urging people to sign up to its Fight for a Fair Start campaign. There is still time to pledge your support, if you haven’t already done so, by signing up at nspcc.org.uk/support-us/campaigns/fight-for-a-fair-start.

The pandemic has added even more pressure on families due to the anxiety and social isolation. Now more than ever it is vital no parent or baby is left behind and services they need are there to support them regardless of where they live. At our Bradford, York and Leeds service centres we offer a Pregnancy in Mind service which helps new mums and dads, through group work, build emotional resilience with coping strategies, and acknowledge their pre-natal depression or anxiety, by recognising the signs.

The group explores mindfulness, relaxation, and foetal development and helps parents strengthen relationships too. It has been so important for our practitioners to carry on this service in the pandemic. Lockdown changed our way of life overnight, the continuing uncertainty, coupled with financial worries will have added pressure on expectant parents at a time when they may have already been uncertain. It’s important that we’ve been able to transform the way we work, expanding our service offer with virtual sessions and 1-2-1 telephone support, to ensure we’re still there to support parents-to-be. Our Pregnancy in Mind service is open to expectant mums and partners, they can self-refer or be referred onto the programme by a midwife or another professional. Please call our team on (01274) 381 440.